Planning for such a large event requires a tribe of volunteers. Birdie, MNRG’s travel coordinator, in addition to being the volunteer coordinator for the tournament gave us her tactics for creating this tribe, “We recruited within the league first, especially for point/leadership positions in each area: merchandise, security, registration, production, hospitality, wrangling, safety, etc. We appointed folks for those leadership positions who we knew were good communicators, responsible, trustworthy, and we could easily hold accountable if they didn’t fulfill their responsibilities.” The coordinators created a schedule for the event and plugged in ‘shift leads’ before reaching out to the wider derby community via social media. An online form was created for potential volunteers to fill out, they would be required to volunteer four or five hours in one day, with the incentive of a free ticket to that day’s events. “Keeping everyone organized is a lot like being a project manager,” said Birdie, “[There is] constant communication.”
With Roy Wilkins Auditorium being the ‘home court’ for MNRG, they were keyed in to the safety and security measures needed for their events and space. One thing that they chose to do differently for the Championships was to designate one restroom as ‘all gender.’ “We knew that WFTDA has a higher population of trans, gender queer, and gender non-conforming folks than our regular fan base…we heard nothing but positive things about it - parents, folks with disabilities who need assistance, all gender, and just people who wanted to stand together in line.” Birdie explained. “We are going to implement an all gender restroom in our regular season games next year.” MNRG’s home season is during the winter months because, “There is not much to do in Minnesota winters,” with the All-Star team traveling during the summer.
One of the most important parts of a roller derby tournament is the afterparty. After a day of bruises, floor burns, wins, losses, and high emotions how do you create inviting group space that allows everyone to enjoy the energy and camaraderie that lives within the sport of roller derby? Stompy shared, “In order to plan a successful, well-attended event, we first needed to consider our audience…these people travel to roller derby tournaments to do more than see the best women’s flat track roller derby - they also want to catch up with former teammates, fellow officials, and worthy adversaries from around the world.” In Stompy’s experience she noticed that after a hard day of game play “some tournament-goers are just not into loud parties.” Luckily, the InterContinental Saint Paul Riverfront was in very close proximity and happy to allow MNRG and their guests to take over the entire lower level including a ballroom. They juxtaposed the after party space, with one room providing music, burlesque performances by The Vigilantease Collective, and dancing while a ‘quiet room’ was configured with multiple seating arrangements allowing their athletes, officials, and fans a space to talk and mingle.
Roller derby is a sport evolving, with its volunteer-run teams working diligently to provide valuable experiences to their fans, skaters, and guest officials. Most leagues work even harder to give back to their local communities, so if you are looking for a great sporting event this summer, look no further than your local roller derby team and the flat track. The action is enough to keep even the newest fan on the edge of their seat and if that isn’t enough excitement, consider lacing up a pair of skates and joining the fun!